Brazil’s women footballers ensured the opening day of action at Rio 2016 was a happy one for the hosts with a 3-0 win over China on Wednesday.
The sight of vast swathes of empty seats at the 60 000-seater Olympic stadium for Sweden’s 1-0 win over South Africa in the first match of the Games will have embarrassed organisers.
A healthier, albeit far from capacity crowd enjoyed the Canarinhas victory as goals from Monica, Andressa Alves and Cristiane eased Brazil to a comfortable win.
Expectations are high that five-time World Player of the Year Marta can inspire Brazil to go one better than the silver medals they won at the 2004 and 2008 Games to end the USA’s run of three straight golds.
The 30-year-old, playing in her fourth Olympics, showed flashes of brilliance in the first-half, but it was Cristiane who was most dangerous early on as she looked to add to her record 12 goals in Olympic competition.
Cristiane’s first effort was brilliantly saved by Zhao Lina in the Chinese goal before another goalbound shot was cleared off the line by Tan Ruyin.
The opener finally came in bizarre fashion when Monica’s tame header trickled past a sea of Chinese defenders and Zhao into the bottom corner.
Marta then showed her class by creating the second on the hour mark as she skipped down the right before picking out Andressa Alves for a volleyed finish.
China’s eccentric French coach Bruno Bini claimed in the build-up to the game that the Chinese women “work harder and they complain much less” than the French side he led to the 2011 World Cup semifinals.
Whilst there was no lack of effort, China lacked the quality in attack to muster a fightback.
Only a stunning save from Zhao prevented Marta sealing the win in style after a fine solo run and shot that was arrowing towards the bottom corner.
Marta was then replaced to a rousing reception before Cristiane nipped in ahead of Zhao to head home the third.